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Turn a panel interview to your advantage

(MoneyWatch) Given the large number of applicants for many jobs, getting all the way to the in-person interview is a significant achievement. If you're got one scheduled, congratulations. I've given you a lot of advice in the past for how to tackle one-on-one interviews, but panel interviews -- where you sit in a conference room, surrounded by a slew of interviewers -- are a different beast altogether. Panels can be intimidating, especially if you weren't expecting one.

Recently, Hannah Morgan in US News & World Report gave some practical advice on how to deal with a panel interview, and I heartily agree with her, especially since I've sat among the panel on many occasions in the past.

So how do you deal with the panel interview? Start by knowing it's coming. If you've got an interview scheduled, be sure to ask your HR contact or the hiring manager ahead of time who you'll be meeting with and how the interview will be conducted. That's a perfectly legitimate question, and in fact as a hiring manager, I like it when the candidate asks. It means he or she wants to be prepared.

If you get the news that you'll be surrounded for an hour by members of the engineering, design, and user research team, for example, it's time to do your homework. Equipped with the names of the interviewers, you can look them up on LinkedIn and the company website to learn about their roles and background. That way, when you get in the room, you can take the opportunity to ask meaningful questions about the company, its culture, your role, and so on. It shows you're engaged, and lets you learn a lot you wouldn't otherwise have the chance to learn. And by targeting specific interviewers with questions, it lets you see each person as an individual and not feel overwhelmed by a large committee.

Here are some questions you can use to get started:

  • What are the three main factors you will be using to determine the right person for this job?
  • How is job performance evaluated at your company, and how often will I be evaluated?
  • What types of skills do you not already have on-board that you're looking to fill with a new hire?
  • What goals do you expect the person who takes this job to achieve during the first year?

Hannah has some great thoughts on how to approach each individual during the panel interview and turn it into a success for you. Be sure to check out the entire story.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Fang Guo

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